Shuttle Carnage Looms
Capital Metro's PR blitz is indeed a magical mystery tour. And of course Henry the horse dances the waltz. Increased ridership, increased on-time performance, and reduced complaints are figments of Capital Metro's creative self-evaluation. The figures come from the horse's mouth. The transit authority will naturally paint itself in the best light. The truth is Capital Metro has just gotten better at eating around the bad spot. The system is still the same inefficient behemoth it was with the bumbling Michael Bolton at the helm. The truth is that "back to basics" means the burden has fallen on the backs of the mechanics, drivers, and the unsuspecting motoretariat. This streamlining has resulted in an overworked and exhausted workforce, whose morale is at an all-time low. Route schedules have been trimmed to an unworkable tightness, causing drivers to speed, run red lights, and take countless other traffic risks. The result is a 30% increase in accident rates for the last quarter alone. The constant pressure has increased worker accidents, injuries, and attrition. Attrition leads to less experienced drivers hitting the road, with less and less training, creating an unstoppable snowball of destruction. The latest Capital Metro "back to basics" trimmage is on the backs of the drivers and passengers of the major ridership segment of Capital Metro, the UT Shuttle. These express drivers are being forced to navigate the most dangerous stretch of highway in the country (I-35 downtown) for eight to 12 hours straight without a break. This cost-cutting "back to basics" measure is placed squarely on the backs, doors, quarterpanels, and head on at you driving there in already fever-pitched traffic. The potential for increased accidents and injuries is being further aggravated in the name of cutting corners. 30% will seem small compared to the increase in the carnage that begins on the UT Shuttle this fall. The interim board would not even consider the input of the Shuttle drivers. Safety did not apparently concern them. We can only hope that the new, accountable board will consider the pleas for safety. For the sake of the promising, youthful passengers of the UT Shuttle, and for the sake of the sanity and safety of the operators, the new board must see fit to keep the 10-minute breaks in the UT Shuttle schedules. Capital Metro can take the red out of the color scheme on the outside of the buses, but they will be hard pressed to get bloodstains out of the inside.
Glenn Gaven, President
Shuttlebus Driver's Union
No More Mobile Homes
I suggest they build a mobile home development on the Triangle. Our neighborhood is trying to prevent a developer from placing over 500 mobile homes in our neighborhood. City staff reported to the planning commission during the zoning hearing last week that our southeast Austin area has almost 10% mobile homes, and that all the other areas of Austin have less than 2%. Obviously the Triangle area needs more of this excellent affordable housing. I'm sure the Hyde Park residents would support more affordable housing. The developer wants to build on lots less than 4,000 square feet in size, and with that density they might be able to provide over 200 units of affordable housing. Why does the Chronicle devote so much space to the Triangle? Why have I not seen any mention of the 500 mobile homes proposed for my neighborhood?
President, Silverstone Neighborhood Assoc.
Roads Aren't Relief
Dear Chron readers,
In his Aug. 15 editorial ["Page Two," Vol.16, No.50], Louis Black implicitly singled me out for criticism for my statement that SH130 was a billion dollar solution in search of a problem. The context indicates that Mr. Black thinks I undermine environmentalist credibility. But his evidence was to stretch my comment into a denial of the seriousness of congestion, which Black possibly believes SH130 could relieve.
Austin does have an intractable congestion problem. But building SH130 will no more relieve congestion than using more heroin will alleviate heroin addiction. We've built all the big new roads and freeways and interchanges that TxDOT and Austin can afford and we're worse off than ever.
The more we try to relieve congestion by building new freeways into Williamson County like SH130, the more we encourage sprawl far outside the city which becomes cut-through traffic inside Austin. The experience of rapidly growing urban areas in the United States is that we cannot build our way out of congestion.
The appropriate solution is to encourage a compact city, slow and calm city traffic, encourage more mixed uses so that every trip will not require a car, and to shift our planning to encourage commuter rail, freight rail, bikes, peds, and transit-compatable land uses. But no politically powerful bureaucracy like TxDOT welcomes such change without outside pressure.
There is no obvious source of money to build SH130 other than making it a toll road, which means designing it more as a commuter highway than a NAFTA bypass. Nate Blakeslee's July 18 Chronicle article on SH130 amply documents the contradictions behind selling SH130 as a cure for congestion or as an effective freight bypass for IH35, which is itself a deathtrap and testament to myopic planning.
Yours, Roger Baker
Rethinking Our Urban Transportation Environment (ROUTE)
Blame Real Estate Industry
Thank you for your last week's "Page Two" [Vol.16, No.50] on the importance of managing our growth and protecting our environment. I agree with almost all of your analysis.
I disagree that somehow the real estate industry should not be blamed for our problems. The greed and corruption of this industry destroyed our banking system, polluted our water, corrupted our elected officials, trashed our city's long range plan, stole the S.O.S. vote of two-thirds of Austin voters, and plundered our public coffers to build roads, schools, sewer lines, etc. to feed their greed while the needs of taxpaying citizens went unmet. They have refused to listen to the interests of citizens since the Austin Tomorrow Plan was adopted in 1977. Their motto is "Last come, first served." They do not care about the interests of citizens who have lived here and paid the taxes for years and years. They are impervious to arguments that suggest a future Austin that is anything but 360 degree sprawl.
If we do not correctly diagnose our problems, and keep our eyes on those who have stolen our past, they will steal our future. They are doing it right now.
A case in point: the real estate industry is bearing down on top of our city council and city staff demanding several more years of grandfathering to developers in the Barton Springs Zone even though they have already had five years to build outside the requirements of the Save Our Springs ordinance. They want our environment-friendly city council to ignore the citizens who elected them, ignore the federal Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, ignore the science that shows the damage already done to the aquifer, and grant their grandfathering requests before the citizens of Austin know what is going on.
Since this issue is new and complicated, virtually no one in Austin outside the real estate industry understands enough about the issues to provide meaningful public input to the council. We need the Chronicle and its readers to pay close attention and demand that these important decisions not be rushed so that the superior financial resources of the developer industry may be countered by the ideas and intelligence of those citizens who love Austin enough to get involved.
Louis Black, Right-Winger
To Readers of the Chronicle:
Socialism is dead! Even in Austin!
What event prompts me to pronounce this? The fall of the Berlin Wall? The collapse of the Soviet Union? The cha-cha between Washington and the People Formerly Known as the Red Chinese? No! It's a look through the Chronicle!
Evidence of change:
1. The huge Chronicle puff piece on Austin American-Statesman editor Rich Oppel, former Chronicle Public Enemy Number Two (behind Jim-Bob Moffett). What smoky room deal prompted this turnabout? Not any change in A-S policy!
2. Louis Black, former hater of profit in its many guises has gone soft. He now moves his editorials to page four or six, to make room for big ads. Meanwhile, he still calls the column "Page Two," possibly hoping we don't notice. Word has it, this booster of gentrification of East Austin lives in a big house in Southwest Austin (please confirm or deny).
3. While decrying threats to public health, the Chronicle devotes many full pages to lucrative cigarette ads. Profit promoting a deadly, addictive product. Really, is this a "green" position? Does it help "save the planet?"
Not that the planet needs saving. If one understands the "New Chronicle Order," the paper still ain't bad. Said publisher Black does have his staff do research on important political articles, and there's more realism than one finds in any the other local media. Just understand the change. Accept it.
And if you ignore the reviews, there is a very fine guide to local movies and other entertainment. One or two funny cartoons, some fine caricatures, and interesting ads for bizarre women's fashions (if that's not redundant).
Austin "music" being what it is (diversity- and talent-free), the rest of the paper makes a dandy liner for my parrot's cage bottom. Fits real snug. Absorbs those splats.
So, socialists, leftists, and "progressives" (all the same thing) of Austin, "Whatcha gonna do?" Maybe the same as your Mr. Black: Get hip to reality! Stop using government to take my stuff for your projects and "vision" and work for your goals. Like Mr. Black, you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor!
We Blew It Professionally
I would like to add a word to the Austin Blues Lexicon. The word is "antonement." It means "to add insult to injury while ostensibly seeking forgiveness." This word forced itself into my imagination after I read the "thank you" letter from the "family and friends of Keith Ferguson." [Vol. 16, No. 45] I feel compelled to respond to what I see as a whitewash of dastardly proportions.
The way I see it, the "benefit" June 30 at Antone's was not so much to honor Keith and help pay for some of the expenses of his death as it was a vehicle for the Chronicle and the anti-Keith forces to wash their hands for the abominable manner in which they had treated Keith both before and after his demise. Let me elaborate my complaints against the Chronicle first.
In the stories you did about Keith in Vol. 16, No. 36, the Chronicle wallowed in journalistic voyeurism, shamelessly allowing both Senior Editor Margaret Moser and Shyster Del Rey to vent their spleens in retaliations for all the really funny insults Keith had heaped on their sorry asses over the years. Their articles, along with another similar article, had no love, respect, or understanding. Further, you sent Moser to the meeting of the committee planning Keith's memorial knowing of the animosity that existed between them, and, knowing the nature of the stories you were about to publish would hurt Keith, his mother, family, and friends. She was indeed a Judas in our midst! Further still, when Keith's mom went to your office to present you a letter, you refused to see her. When you realized your faux pas, you invited her back, but you didn't do the right thing. You were too professional to say, "We blew it. I'm sorry." What you did was stand by your stories and later offer free advertising to Antone's for the benefit. You helped define "antonement."
The production of the "benefit" is an even better example of "antonement." How could anyone not see the patronage and hypocrisy of that travesty? Antone's had blackballed Keith! And, what a tremendous abomination that Susan Antone would steer the "benefit committee." (At the first meeting she admonished the members to not say anything negative about Margaret Moser or the Chronicle.) Now, using Keith's name, they want to make it an annual event, the proceeds going to indigent musicians. None of these Einsteins stops to think that maybe, if Keith had not been cheated out of his fair share of the T-Birds success, and maybe, if he had been allowed to work, he wouldn't have been indigent? But noooo, that's not the way "antonement" works. The guilt is laid off on Keith's lack of moral fibre. Hands washed, case closed.
Finally, in its blasphemy, the thank you letter is the quintessential example of "antonement." It is like the slaves thanking the slavemaster. How could you be so cruel? (If you check it out, you'll find that whoever wrote that letter did not consult the people whose names were signed before submitting it to the Chronicle.)
Daniel J. Schaefer
[Editor's Note: When contacted by the Chronicle, all of the individuals involved in the thank-you letter said they approved of having their names signed to it.]
God Save the Proofers
Dear Good Albeit Under-Educated People:
John Brown ["Film Listings," Vol.16, No.50] was 34 years in Royal service. He did not manage the Royal Household.
In the Queen's own words, "Duncan J. Brown, who, in 1858, became my regular attendant out of doors, everywhere in the Highlands; who commenced as gillie in 1848, and was selected by Albert and me to go with my carriage. In 1851 he entered our service permanently, and began in that year leading my pony, and advanced step by step by his good conduct and intelligence. His attention, care, and faithfulness cannot be exceeded; and the state of my health, which of late years has been sorely tried and weakened, renders such qualifications most valuable, and indeed, most needful in a constant attendant upon all occasions. He has since (December 1865), most deservedly, been promoted to be an upper servant, and my permanent personal attendant. He has all the independence and elevated feelings peculiar to the Highland race, and is straightforward, kind-hearted, and disinterested; always ready to oblige; and of a discretion rarely to be met with... His father was a small farmer... he is the second of nine brothers."
Please note that irreguardless [sic] of what was or was not in the film that it was mostly the feeling of being left out of the Queen's world that sent the English press barking as she preferred the company of Scots, Hanovarians, and East Indians over the English.
Beyond that your review continues to reflect ignorance of proper punctuation, not unlike Austin's other paper. Royalist, Anti or otherwise should also be capitalised. And finally, Dowager is applied only to the five grades of the peerage and the baronetage, not the Queen!
Respectfully yours as you are still the
only paper here worth the name,
That's My Boy!
Just want to let you know how much I enjoyed "Big Game Hunter Overstanding" by Andy Langer. As a U. of Florida journalism major years and years and even more years ago, never thought I'd be reading about my kid's (Chris Siebenthaler) band off a monitor being fed data over a phone line!
Global communication, global insight maybe. Nice to see the boyz in their home setting.
Thanks for letting a proud dad share in the news. (I've been promised hard copy, but kids will be kids. I'm still waiting for the mystery video that's in the mail.)
What Have You Done for Me Lately?
Regarding the letter from Jerry Bruner about the review of Lee Roy Parnell's CD ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.48]. I'd like to remind all that any publicity is better than no publicity.
I'd welcome the "banana girl" reviewer for the Chronicle, whoever she is (I missed the actual write up ["Record Reviews," Vol.16, No.47]), to write anything about any of my recordings. I promise that she'll find very little she need be serious about.
By way of perspective, I've been in the music game 50 years, the last 17 of them in Austin. My last three CDs have never been mentioned in either the Chronicle or the Statesman. Even negative acknowledgment is preferable to being ignored.
Congratulations to Lee Roy and his Hot Links for putting their hearts and souls into a CD that is not in the "cookie-cutter NashVegas" mold. I'll look forward to hearing it. You folks will probably love the unacknowledged Phantom Dance Band recordings.
Above all else! Everybody remember that if you take the music business seriously, it will make you unhappy.
Tommy X Hancock
[Editor's Note: Tom X's Lost in North Austin was reviewed in Vol.16, No.5]
Twenty-two years ago, I traveled through Guatemala with a truly evolved monster of a guitar player. A jazz guy with a blown psychedelic head and raging heart. He used to teach me things about music. Told me about improvisation, and that when a player was real good they would play huge long lines of music, never repeating themselves or coming back to the place of exit. So one night, hanging around Lake Atitlan tripped on the local herb listening to "Dark Star," Jerry Garcia goes off and doesn't come back. Not for a long time. I ask Oscar, if improvisation is what it is, then didn't Garcia just push the envelope? There was silence, a sigh, and in a quiet voice he said, "Jerry Garcia is a really good guitar player." I don't think any of us said much after that. It was in the music.
To get really high is to forget yourself. And to forget yourself is to see everything else. And to see everything else is to become an understanding molecule in evolution, a conscious tool of the universe. That's why I think it's important to get high. I'm not talking about unconscious or zonked out, I'm talking about being fully conscious. -- Jerry Garcia
In honor and remembrance of that gracious electric beatnik who took so many of us so many places. Happy Trails.
I have a radical idea for really revitalizing the downtown area, which would include three or four large multi-story car parks nearby; these would be preferably underground. There would be frequent buses into downtown and covered walkways and bike lanes throughout, with trees, benches, and fountains all around. Deliveries would have to be made on certain designated roads, but as far as possible there would be be little or no traffic.
I'm from Britain where I used public transport for years and walked a lot, so I don't know if America is ready for this! Come on Austin, let's do something innovative and attractive and save our city and ourselves!
Mental Health Cutbacks
Does the community know that as of September 1, 1997, hundreds of diagnosed mentally ill and retarded folks (some with substance abuse issues and children) will be without rehab and day programs? These people will be forced to wander aimlessly in our fair city, unable to pay for private or alternative treatment. The programs are being cut due to lack of funding from the state and federal governments. Staff has been given notice of job loss and others have resigned or been transferred out of direct care positions, leaving many of these mentally disadvantaged folks with constantly waning services and little hope of support from the very agency that was designed for the community to serve these people. Concerned citizens can contact the Austin-Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Agency through the Executive Director:
David Evans, Executive Director
1430 Collier St.
Austin, TX 78704
(telephone 447-4141 or 440-4031)
Thanks, a concerned citizen,
Business Is People
In regards to the United Parcel Service strike. How strong does United Parcel Service want to be? Strong enough to be world class. That means making a commitment to raise the quality of customer service. You must invest in your people, the critical link between your company and the customer. Develop their strengths and find new ways to expand their potential. This will inspire excellence in the most important aspect of your business -- your people.
Jimmy A. Castro
Don't Blame Immigrants
As the problems of our modern world loom darker and darker over our heads, people like Stephen Mason ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.49] find it increasingly more convenient to scapegoat segments of the population that have little or no power and few resources to fight back. Blaming immigrants for pollution and other ecological disasters is quite an excuse for not recycling or taking a bus to work.
I would like to remind Mr. Mason that pollution knows no borders. Governments draw boundaries and oddly enough, nature fails to respect them. That's why a maquiladora on the Mexico side of the border still pollutes the air in Texas.
It would be interesting to see Mr. Mason's numbers behind his statement that immigrant women have more babies than women in their home country. People have migrated all over the globe throughout the centuries for varied and complex reasons, but I have never come across any information revealing that women immigrate just to "breed!" If Mr. Mason's concern is high birth rates, maybe his energy would be better spent advocating family planning.
Evidently Mr. Mason has been seduced by rhetoric based purely on ignorance, fear, and hatred without giving full thought to exactly what he is suggesting and the long-term consequences. Maybe it is time for people to stop finding an underdog to blame for society's ills, take a look at the whole picture, and decide what each of us as individuals can do to better it.
To the Editor:
Mr. Stephen Mason must have attended the University of Governer Pete Wilson of California and majored in the politics of division. In his recent letter to the editor ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.49], Mr. Mason attempts to masquerade his xenophobic thoughts by "rationally" concluding that "immigrants yearning to breed free" in the United States pose the most dangerous threat to the quality of life enjoyed by Austinites and all Americans. Gov. Wilson presented the similar argument to Californians as Proposition 187.
Some research has determined immigration is a problem, and some studies have concluded immigration is good for America. Regardless of what data one chooses to believe, we can all agree rhetoric that regards immigration as the evil of all will divide people along racial lines. (Proposition 187 was opposed by more than 90% of Hispanics and 70% of Black Americans, it was supported by 75% of Anglo-Americans.)
Proposition 187 passed and to this day the racial polarization in that state prevents people from working together to address the real problems in our society. The real problems in our communities have more to do with drug use, juvenile crime, teen-age pregnancy rates, minority drop-out rates, job security, unaffordable health care and child care, protecting our environment, etc. Immigration is not the problem.
To solve the real problems we must first recognize that we all, regardless of race, want what is best for ourselves, our families, and our communities. We then need to agree no one group is the problem and no one group has the solution. From there, we can work together from common ground to address common problems.
The "educated" Gov. Wilson and Mr. Mason prefer to divide and conquer with one-sided research and statistics. It is my hope that one day they will join the great majority of us that prefer to work towards solving the real problems we all share.
In response to Stephen Mason's venomous anti-immigrant diatribe ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.49], I would like to remind Mr. Mason that immigrants help our country by broadening the horizons for our insular masses through exposing them to a host of influences which hopefully can enrich the local culture. Food, holidays, literature, music, and ideas are examples that spring to my mind. As for driving the local wages down, some immigrants, and certainly illegal immigrants, certainly do provide a labor pool which employers have to love. Since they often don't speak the language and fear deportation, these workers will accept low wages and unsavory working conditions, keeping costs down for employers and prices down for consumers. As far as I know, there is no tax that one can be exempt from because of one's citizenship status. Finally, scapegoating immigrants for the short-sighted environmental policies practiced by corporate America over the past 50 years strikes me as a particularly feeble excuse to air one's racist proclivities.
To the Editors:
Here in Texas, something like 65% of all electricity generated goes to air conditioning.
If everyone had black roofs there would be even more juice "needed." The atomic power boys would love it. Oh so fashionable!
Seriously, if all the roofs were painted white there would be tons and tons of money in citizens' hands to spend on music venues, instruments, books, education, and other quality-of-life aspects.
I've painted some friends' roofs white (in progressive towns in S. California -- Davis for one -- the city has a "roof-white" program to paint poorer folks' roofs to save them money and help them stay cool.)
Attics under dark roofs will be 130-140deg. until a coat of white outdoor latex is applied. The temperature goes down to ambient in no time. Composition roofs were originally designed in the late Thirties to be painted, but that final step in roof application was quickly lost (the little pieces of grit are to hold the coat on; the coat seals the cracks).
When I went before the Austin City Council to use three minutes to tell about this I was surprised to see three minutes of blank airspace in place of my talk the next day when the meeting was replayed; and the next day, and the next day! Go figure!
DeWitty Center Works
My name is Cora Redd, a graduate from the DeWitty Center. I registered with the Center for computer classes. These classes were given from April 29 to July 16, 1997. I, along with the rest of the class were introduced to the instructor, told about the building and its operations. On day one Miss Sharon Moore, who was the instructor for the Basic Computer Course introduced us to the computer, the various parts, and their functions. Miss Moore was an outstanding instructor whom I thoroughly enjoyed working with. She was very knowledgeable and so were the other instructors.
Upon completion of the Basic Computer Course (Microsoft Word 6.0/Windows 3.11) I was given an exam and received a certificate of completion. Also, the staff prepared a resumé for me which was very professional. The Center also provided services for persons in need of computer work, copies, letters, resumés, etc. The DeWitty Center has job placement agencies affiliation also. I am a witness. I was hired out on a temporary assignment through the workforce agency affiliated with the DeWitty Center. Therefore, you see, the Arthur DeWitty Training Center does provide needed education, job placement, housing services for the community and needs of the people. So please do not print any more negative criticisms about the Center ["Meanwhile, Back at the Salt Mines," Vol.16, No.40].
It is my personal hope that more people in the community of Austin (especially the young) will take advantage of the opportunities offered at the Arthur B. DeWitty Center.
Thank you very much. God bless.
A concerned citizen,
Ms. Cora J. Redd
End Auto Welfare
The Statesman reported last week that we Austin taxpayers pay each City Council member (except Bill Spelman) a $300 per month car allowance, in addition to salary. This is a very improper use of tax money.
Excessive reliance on cars is ruining our city. I am one of a small but growing minority who does not drive a car or have a driver's license, because of what cars are doing to our air and our quality of life. We who don't drive are persistently treated as second-class citizens. The city always has money for cars, but not for sidewalks, streetcars, and bike lanes.
As a non-driver, I resent being taxed to support our city leaders' private cars. I am paying to keep our leaders addicted to cars and blind to the problems they cause. I am paying to cement my own status as a second-class citizen.
I urge the City Council to get rid of this car subsidy and any other car subsidies we taxpayers are financing. We can earmark the money thus saved for sidewalks, streetcars, bike lanes, and bike boulevards.
Seems Everyone's Stupid
Dear Thinking Readers,
When the UT students return to the dorms, UT houses some of them in dorm TV rooms, because the city runs a 97-100% apartment occupancy rate. So let's face it; in three weeks, Austin will be 110% full.
A Dallas Morning News analysis of the Austin "homeless problem" (last Sunday edition) saw the overpriced apartments as the cause... and the lack of affordable apartments. To think that providing only luxury apartments in Austin will decrease the harassment by drunks is stupid. One should blame Gov. Bush (don't let an apartment complex block the view of my seat of power) and John Sharp for decreasing and closing state hospital units and throwing these people on the streets... to become homeless.
A homeless center is as stupid as the luxury apartments solution. And most drunks like Del Valle better than construction work, so this is no deterrent. How about normal wages for construction workers, waitresses, and affordable apartments as a solution? Certainly there are hundreds of acres outside central Austin where apartments could be built cheaply. Think.
Eat the Rich
Steve Mason an Earth Firster!! What a joke. This person comes to us claiming we're racists because we help the people of Indonesia, Africa, Chiapas ["Postmarks," Vol.16, No.49].
He asked what are you doing for white people? Well Steve, preventing the pollution of air, water, and land from the forces of greed is a thankless, never-ending endeavor. Through time, people have had to protect themselves from the forces of greed and disharmony by promoting free speech and non-violent protest, only to be met with death and government opposition, eg., Espionage Act of 1917, the death of Judi Beri, Michael Eakin.
Here comes Steve Mason talking of patriots, armed militias, and violent overthrows of the government trying to provoke Earth Firsters!! by passing literature calling us communist, racist, leftist. It won't work, Steve, we're just people trying to protect our environment from proven, clear, and present dangers.
And now he has the nerve to blame the world problems on the poor, not the greedy who buy land to develop, thus polluting our drinking water and air (no thanks to the TNRCC). But the poor, yea Steve, follow your buds, hate us, threaten us, but don't call yourself an Earth Firster!! And please don't blame the world's problems on the poor. Blame yourself for your apathy and the great American diet driving up health care costs.
Ignorance is the enemy. Truth is the ally.